Disease that killed woman ‘may not have been so dreadful’ if she was kept in hospital

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The disease that killed a 71-year-old woman ‘might not have been so dreadful’ if she had been kept in hospital for a longer period, Herts Coroners Court heard today.

Jean Young, of Grosvenor Avenue, Kings Langley, went to Watford General Hospital on Wednesday, February 15, for an operation to remove part of a tumour.

The retired circuit board assembler, who had terminal ovarian cancer, was kept in hospital for seven days, where her blood pressure and temperature were checked regularly.

The inquest heard that she had been diagnosed with paralytic ileus after the surgery – a pain reflex that stops the bowels from working.

This caused her to vomit regularly until her bowels began working again on Tuesday, February 21, the day before she was released from hospital.

Malcolm Padwick, who had been her surgeon, said: “She was very keen to go home. Her daughter was concerned about whether her mother was fit to go home and what was available to her when she got home.”

Within 48 hours of being at home, Mrs Young was being sick again – and though district nurses advised that she see her GP, her daughter Claire insisted on an ambulance, the inquest heard.

By that point, Mrs Jones was clinically dehydrated from not eating or drinking, said Dr Padwick, who was not responsible for her release from hospital.

He said: “I was a little surprised she was discharged, but you do see people who suddenly turn a corner and get better.

“But she had had a major problem for a while and usually you like to keep people there for two to three days until they get going.”

After returning to hospital Mrs Jones was given two laparotomy operations – where a large incision is made in the abdominal wall to look into the abdominal cavity.

Doctors found a hole in her caecum, which is connected to the colon, and that caused complications making it difficult for her to breathe.

She died on Monday, February 27, the day after her second laparotomy.

Coroner Edward Thomas said: “If she had been in hospital when the first signs became clear, the laparotomy would have been carried out a lot earlier.

“It might possibly have prevented her from the effects of the peritonitis – which might not have been so dreadful.”

The inquest heard that although her cancer was malignant and had spread to her uterus and other areas, it would not have killed her within at least three months.

Mrs Young had also suffered from diverticulitis disease, which causes the pouches on the outside of the colon to become inflamed.

This may have been what caused the perforation of her caecum, the inquest heard.

In a narrative verdict the cause of death was recorded as peritonitis, caused by a perforation of the caecum, with metastic ovarian cancer and diverticulitis listed as contributory factors.